10 Things That Are Surprisingly Legal In the United States But Should Be Banned Today

Many law-abiding citizens break laws by using common sense due to a lack of knowledge regarding a specific matter. Not all states have the same rules, so what might be fine in Texas could be illegal in New York and vice versa. Here are some strange things that are still legal in some states, though many seem ethically and morally wrong.

1. Owning large exotic animals as pets

Lions, tigers, bears, and even giraffes are pets in certain states. For example, in Delaware, you need a license to get a pet tiger. In Florida, you can have a giraffe as a pet, while in Massachusetts, you can have a bear pet. Oklahoma allows lions to be held similarly to cats and dogs.

2. Corporal punishment in public schools

Though it sounds outdated, corporal punishment is still legal in public schools in 19 states. Corporal punishment is used to discipline children from preschool to 12th grade in these states, which include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, etc. In contrast, it has been banned in New Jersey since the 1870s.

3. Marrying your cousin

Out of 50, you can marry your cousin in half of the states, including your first cousins. Some states have interesting laws: In Arizona, the couple must be over 65, while in West Virginia, only adopted first cousins are allowed to marry.

4. Congress members creating laws and using them to trade stocks

Members of Congress who own stocks might face ethical difficulties when they shape laws that could hurt or help their portfolios. Legally, they can do whatever they want; the same goes for their family members. That’s how lawmakers get rich, but the bipartisan “Ban Stock Trading for Government Officials Act” was introduced by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) in late July, so this might end at some point.

5. Puppy mills

There are over 10k puppy mills in the U.S., and Missouri is the top U.S. state for puppy mill operation problems. In 2023, some laws were passed making puppy mills illegal in several states, including New York and California. Still, it is legal in most states to have puppy mills, and most people agree that it is unethical and inhumane, especially with so many shelters waiting for animal lovers to support them and give home to one of the poor souls.

6. Buying assault weapons

An “assault weapon” refers to a semi-automatic gun designed for military use. Yet, in many states, it is easy to purchase it, almost as easy as buying a child’s toy. States with laws restricting assault weapons are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Washington.

7. No taxes for churches

Despite the separation of church and state, churches do not pay taxes, and many Americans are not happy about this. Churches, synagogues, and mosques make around $74.5 billion annually. For smaller religious organizations, this is helpful, but for large ones, it seems unethical.

8. Child beauty pageants

Some European countries ended beauty pageants for children, and many understand why. The ban is unlikely to hit the US, but “you want them to sing and dance and perform in age-appropriate ways,” explained Karen Kataline, a mental health professional. Fake hair, teeth, tan, and outrageous outfits are still legal, despite many believing it is wrong and can have adverse effects on a child’s development.

9. Tech companies using your data for profit

Your data helps companies target you with ads and allows the government to track your digital footprint. In most parts of the country, collecting and selling personal data is not illegal as long as you know they might do just that. That means reading the fine print.

10. Large companies not paying taxes

A study suggested that 55 of America’s largest companies paid no income taxes in 2020. These companies used legal tax avoidance strategies, including accelerated depreciation and offshore profits. It is not difficult to close these loopholes and create a fairer market.

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